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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

All the Marrakech Musts

On our last Destination Date Night, we "traveled" to Marrakech. Since we learned a lot of cool things to see and do and eat, I thought I'd share some of these things with you if you've been thinking about planning a trip once this is all over and we're welcomed back into the world.

5 Things to See

Though you may only think Marrakech is made up of desert sands and buildings that blend into the surroundings, I've discovered these 5 things inside the city that are highly recommended and things I put on my own list.
  1. Jardin Majorelle - Designed and created by Yves Saint Laurent and Philippe Berge in the 1920s, this botanical garden has been owned and maintained by artists since it opened. In order to avoid long lines and crowds, go right at opening.
  2. Palácio da Bahia - Constructed by the Grand Vizier Ahmed Bin Moussa toward the end of the 18th century, this is one of the most popular places in the Medina. It's a wonderful example of Moorish architecture and craftsmanship.
  3. Anima André Heller Garden - This gorgeous garden full of lush plants of all kinds also offers sculptures and art installations throughout. It's not only full of wonderful photo ops, but it also gives you a nice break from the crowded city.
  4. Medina of Marrakech - This is the main attraction of the city, surrounded by the old city walls and named a UNESCO heritage site. You'll find miles of stalls in the labyrinthine souk/market, but even so it's teeming with people. In the square you'll see snake charmers and juice vendors. Pictures are encouraged, but you'll be asked for money from subjects. Fair warning: haggling is a must. This is also home to Marrakech's largest mosque, Koutoubia Mosque. A good tip I've seen is to get a table on the second floor of Café France just before sunset and order a tea to watch the sun set behind the mosque. 
  5. Musee Yves Saint Laurent - A whole museum dedicated to the past four decades of fashion and work from YSL. It's highly popular and also recommended to get their as close to opening as possible to avoid crowds.

5 Things to Eat

I love food. You'll never hear me say otherwise. Good food is the best part of travel and knowing what to look for wherever you're going is important if you're like me and want to immerse yourself in the taste of a destination. 
  1. Bestilla - You saw this in my last post. It's a chicken dish that's kind of like a baklava, but with the addition of chicken. It was originally made with pigeon, but in America pigeon is either really difficult to find or very expensive (it's usually called squab here).
  2. Couscous - A lot of places serve couscous cold and I'm super not into it. Warm couscous is an entirely different story. It's a versatile dish that can benefit from any addition really. It's made of durum wheat or semolina flour and is a starch that can be used like pasta or rice.
  3. Chebakia - A sweet pastry made from strips of dough, shaped and fried, then coated in syrup or honey. You'll find this most often during Ramadan, but not only during that time.
  4. Zaalouk - Classified as a salad, zaalouk is a dish of simmered tomatoes, eggplant and spices that is served with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.
  5. Msemen - This Moroccan flatbread is made from kneaded, layered dough. It can be eating at any meal, and is commonly eaten at breakfast with butter and jam. We had it with a spinach dip.

5 Things to Buy

The souks (or markets) of Marrakech are a great way to interact with people and pick up some really unique items. As you may know, I love a market and I tend to purchase birthday and/or holiday gifts on vacation, so this is fantastic way to buy things with a purpose. Here are 5 things that you should look for in the souks either for gifts or souvenirs:
  1. Berber rugs - There are over 40 tribes in Morocco that each have their own unique weaves, so you'll find rugs with different embroideries. 
  2. Spices - I always look for interesting spices on my travels that I know I can't get at home. Saffron is grown in Morocco, but ras el hanout is a traditional spice blend that you might be interested in finding and bringing home. Other spices that are great to look out for are tamarind, cardamom, and turmeric.
  3. Tangine pots - These pots are essentially a way to make one-pot meals of all kinds, and these covered handmade pots are the traditional way to make them and come in many different sizes with tons of different artwork.
  4. Cashmere scarves - These make excellent gifts, as they are lightweight, warm, and high quality. You won't pay the same prices as you do in America, because they are made from Moroccan cashmere goat wool. There are also Angora goats, so look out for those products as well if you're interested.
  5. Harem pants - There's nothing I love more than great comfy pants, and harem pants are popular and quite easy to find in the souks. They're light and airy, so you can wear them in the middle of the summer. 
Don't forget to try the fruit juices sold everywhere. It's fresh and a total must to sip while wandering the souks. The fruit in Morocco is easily the best in the world, so you're really missing out if you skip this.

5 Words to Know

Marrakech has two official languages: Arabic and Amazigh, though Arabic is more widely acceptable. You can also get by on French, as it is spoken across the country. In the south, many Moroccans speak Spanish, due to being so close to Spain. Here are 5 words/phrases to know in any language, but here they are in Arabic:
  1. Yes: Wakha | No: La
  2. Good morning: Salam Alekum
  3. Goodbye: Bsslama
  4. Thank you: Choukran | Thank you very much: Choukran bezaf
  5. How are you?: Labass
There you have it. Now you have a good base of what to expect from a trip to Marrakech. you can easily add to this list to make your trip more amazing and include day trips and anything else that fits your travel style and how long your trip is. 

Have you put Morocco on your travel wish list?

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